Shopify has over one million merchants, making it one of the most promising platforms to build an online store. One of Shopify's success factors is its ability to make the merchants happy by offering an easy-to-use, affordable, and functional e-commerce site that not only looks good but helps them to sell. And I think that has been the main factor that helped Shopify make itself distinct from the competition. A major reason for this success is Shopify's app store which encourages developers to build a high-quality app that can be integrated into merchants' workflow and hopefully help them sell even more.

I personally think that the Shopify platform is a very interesting starting point for many developers/entrepreneurs who want to build an app. There are few reasons for this:

  • Shopify merchants are already paying for Shopify every month with a subscription, so if you help them solve a problem in their workflow or boost their sales, they will be happy to pay for your app as well.
  • Shopify has an incentive to make you successful since they are getting a portion of your sales every month (20%), but in the process help you with marketing, payment, and an increasingly popular platform that can bring your business a steady stream of income.

So if you have the technical knowledge (or know someone) to build a Shopify app, have domain knowledge in the e-commerce field or have access to merchants with recognized problems; then I think you can start thinking about building a Shopify app as a way to start your entrepreneurial journey. If you are looking for some inspiration on what Shopify apps to build, then keep reading this piece.

Note: These recommendations are mostly written to give you inspiration and act as food for thought. So make sure to do your own research or talk to relevant people when starting to build your app.

#5 Task Management

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Photo by Christin Hume / Unsplash

When it comes to managing a store, merchants wear a lot of hats and take on many different roles; from updating inventory to marketing and customer support. But as soon as merchants hit a level of success, they need to hire talented assistants, developers, designers, and marketers to keep up with the success demands.

This is when having an overview of all the store-related tasks becomes important. When you have a virtual assistant from a different part of the world who you do not see physically every day, having detailed task lists and communication becomes critical for getting things done.

A lot of merchants might solve this problem by using third-party task management apps that are too generic. But a better option could be to build an integrated task management app that lets the merchant and their team members see their daily, weekly, and monthly tasks in a user-friendly way and take actions in the context of the Shopify app.

For example, every order that needs to be fulfilled on a specific day could show up in the daily task column; and when clicked on, take the user to the order fulfillment section. When the life of a successful merchant becomes busier, such an app can bring more clarity and efficiency to their workflow.

#4 Local Pickup

Photo by Christiann Koepke / Unsplash

The online store is all about convenience until shipping comes into play. Shipping is one of the hardest areas in e-commerce and a major factor in customer disappointment if not done correctly. I have had my first-hand experience on this when the delivery of my latest order was suddenly canceled around the Easter holiday, and when it arrived, one of the items in the package was completely shattered. This was obviously a bad experience for me as a customer.

But there could be a simple solution to this problem, at least for currently physical stores that are famous in their own cities and are looking to expand their business by having an online store as well. If you build an app that prompts certain users near the physical store to pick up their order themselves; some of them might be really happy to do it. This is mainly because shipping is costly, takes time and customers might be happy to pick up an order while going for a walk. Again, this is obviously limited to the customers who are living near the physical store, but I think there is enough demand for such a scenario that could make such an app profitable.

One thing to note here is that such apps might exist already as part of a shipping app, but making one that is simplified in its options to users and merchants, but sophisticated enough to handle local pickups without any unnecessary intervention from the merchant could be a winning strategy.

#3 Sharing Economy

Street Bikes, Downtown Tucson AZ
Photo by Frankie Lopez / Unsplash

There is a shift in how consumers think about their purchases. It is no longer about owning as many products as possible and accumulating a lot of debt while also damaging the environment. This is where the sharing economy comes in. For certain categories of products, a sharing-based model can be applied to allow customers to rent a needed item like expensive equipment without the need to spend a fortune to own that item.

Since Shopify's order flow is mostly related to one-time purchases, adding an app that can be built on top of Shopify's current order engine and allow physical inventory to be purchased (rented) on a period-based basis while having all the characteristics of a traditional product offering and order. This idea is a bit limited to higher-end physical products and could be more attractive to Shopify Plus merchants, but the good news is those customers are willing to pay more money if you can solve their problems and offer them new revenue of streams.

#2 Customer and product insights

Photo by Clay Banks / Unsplash

The hard work for many merchants starts after they have built the e-commerce site and want to attract new customers or upsell their current ones. With the tough competition out there, it is more important than ever to build the right relationship with the right customers and also offer them the right types of products. But this is a very hard task to achieve and merchants would appreciate any help they can get to make this process easier. This is where you can come in.

In a lot of cases, the Shopify platform offers great data but it is up to individuals to make sense of them. Since merchants are very busy with their operational tasks, they would appreciate an easy-to-use app that could give them short and valuable insights into their customer base and what products would help retain them or make them purchase more.

Now, this is an area where app developers can take a good app idea and make it unusable since customer and product insights is a hard problem that needs to be solved in a meaningful straightforward way. So it is best to have a direct conversation with merchants on the kind of insights they expect out of their store's data and start your analysis from there.

Perhaps they are looking to divide their customers based on the effect of discount codes on their purchasing behavior. If your app allows the merchant to create a sub-segment of users that discount would work better for them, then you can take that list of customers and send promotional emails to them with relevant discount codes and expect your sales to grow as a result. The need to make sense of complicated data is always relevant and necessary.

#1 Virtual Show

Zoom call with coffee
Photo by Chris Montgomery / Unsplash

Even before covid time, a lot of e-commerce stores were launching online events and video calls to fill the gap of not being able to meet their customers face to face. One of the greatest ways a customer can stay loyal to your store and not others is to put a face and voice behind your store and brand. This can be through any of the famous video and voice apps like Instagram, Zoom, or Clubhouse. Or you can develop an app from scratch (without any distractions) that lets the merchant connect directly with their customers.

Your app can send reminders to customers about an upcoming event and also send notifications right before the event starts. You can also allow the merchants to share polls in an online event and later allow them to analyze it. Another option would be to send or tag products in an online event as another way of promotion.

I personally think the possibilities in this area are endless and you can always find clever ways to better connect the merchants with customers through currently established platforms or making new ones; this is mainly due to the fact that people are much more comfortable with these types of meetings after the global lockdowns and I think the ability to attend an event at the comfort of your home will not go away after the pandemic.

Conclusion

I do hope these ideas acted as a source of inspiration for you and your next app. Do not take them at the face value but explore them or similar ideas deeper by talking to merchants who have real pain points, but don't expect them to tell you what to build. It is your responsibility as a founder to recognize the signal among all the noises and then build the right product with the right features in the context of e-commerce. And if you do that, Shopify's platform will give you a lot of boost in order to get your great solution in front of as many merchants as possible.

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